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26 votes

What is the proper definition of a verb?

It's important to draw a distinction between syntax and semantics. In syntax (how words fit together), words are put into "categories" based on the way they fit together with others. If I ...
Draconis's user avatar
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25 votes
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Stable words in the Indo-European language family

Common usage creates irregularity, but not because those words are likely to change—rather, it's because they're not likely to change! These common words are likely to stay in their current forms even ...
Draconis's user avatar
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22 votes
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Do most languages have the same basic verb tenses?

Short answer: Not at all! Some languages only have two: past and non-past (English, Japanese). Others have past, present, and future (Ancient Greek). Still others have separate "recent" and "distant" ...
Draconis's user avatar
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18 votes
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Are there any languages where verbs in the past form are used with the future tense?

Let me explain it all in detail. The Slavic languages originally had 4 past tenses, of which two were simple and two analytical. The simple past tenses of the Old Church Slavonic verb “to see” видѣти (...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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17 votes
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Is a language possible without verbs or without nouns?

It is not possible for there to be a human language that does not have a way of referring to entities, or to predicate states and actions of an entity. If that is what you mean by "noun" and "verb", ...
user6726's user avatar
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15 votes
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Why is tense obligatory in some languages and not in others?

Ultimately we can't answer why one language grammaticalises tense and why another language doesn't. But what we can say is that all languages have at least one major verbal grammatical category. Tense ...
curiousdannii's user avatar
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14 votes

Is there a name for the type of word that the word, “scarecrow,” is? (a transitive verb conjoined with its object)

This is a specific subtype of exocentric compound. An exocentric compound is one which doesn't inherit the type of either of its constituents: a scarecrow is neither a type of crow nor a type of ...
TKR's user avatar
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13 votes

Does English have [ inchoative aspect ]?

This is a case where we have to distinguish between the ability to express something in a language and the presence or absence of a grammatical structure dedicated to expressing that something. ...
Gaston Ümlaut's user avatar
13 votes
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What is the past tense of 'yeet'?

Although it may be tempting to look back towards Old English prototypes, one has to be aware of the time depth of any neologism. That's why finding the first occurrence is so important. The ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
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13 votes

Using 'is' after non-denoting phrases

This is called a gnomic sentence, expressing a universal truth about a relationship between predicates rather than a fact about a specific entity. Similarly, consider the sentence "water freezes ...
Draconis's user avatar
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12 votes

Why is tense obligatory in some languages and not in others?

All human languages allow the expression of distinctions in time reference, so there's always a way to describe the situation that one event precedes another. Some languages do this with special ...
user6726's user avatar
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11 votes

What is the concept of verb agreement with passive-active level in Hebrew?

Although I haven't heard of the term "degrees of passive/active" before, they are almost certainly talking about the verbal stems. This is a concept indeed alien to Western European (or broader) but ...
Keelan's user avatar
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10 votes

Is "imperatives have invisible subjects" a universal?

An interesting, non-exotic, case is German. In the familiar register you can say “geh nach Hause”, “geht nach Hause”, with implicit subject, but you can also say “geh du nach Hause” and “geht Ihr nach ...
fdb's user avatar
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8 votes

What is the past tense of 'yeet'?

I have a field sighting of the form "yoten" to report. In January I was involved with the organizing for the big pro-Second-Amendment demonstration in Richmond, VA. One of the central concerns of ...
ESR's user avatar
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8 votes
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Is there a linguistic term for replacing past tense verb with present tense?

Sometimes this phenomenon is known as the narrative present or (especially by Latinists) historical present. Another potential phenomenon going on is that your dialect has developed relative tense. ...
matan-matika's user avatar
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8 votes
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What is meant by "s/he flies" in Plains Cree dictionary?

In nêhiyawêwin (Plains Cree) and other languages in the family, the "words" are as you say, more like "phrases". The concept of "is" doesn't exist in the same way in ...
aaronfay's user avatar
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8 votes
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Is there a universal (general) definition of gerund, infinitive and participle?

Not really. "Participle" can be defined pretty reliably as "an inflected form of a verb that acts as an adjective". But the line between a participle and any other adjective ...
Draconis's user avatar
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8 votes

Is there a name for the type of word that the word, “scarecrow,” is? (a transitive verb conjoined with its object)

There are actually several of these words in English: "rattlesnake", "crybaby", "scatterbrain", "killjoy", "tattletale", "tumbleweed", etc. ...
Draconis's user avatar
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8 votes
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Are there languages without non-finite verb forms at all?

Inuit (Greenlandic) My Greenlandic is rudimentary at best, but as far as I can recall from my uni classes many years back, Greenlandic (and I believe other Inuit) verbs have only finite forms. The ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
7 votes
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Why does French use “be” as the auxiliary for a few verbs?

As usual in language evolution, having two auxiliaries wasn't a goal, things just happened this way (and in fact the long-term evolution is towards a single auxiliary). There is an article in French ...
Gilles 'SO- stop being evil''s user avatar
7 votes
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How to detect verb in a sentence where the verb is invisible in the sentence?

This phenomenon is called zero copula. It especially common for third person present tense. I recommend that you read on how this is handled in syntax parsers for Russian or Hindi. It was also an ...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
7 votes
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Is there a language where another verb form is simpler/more basic than the imperative?

Classical Arabic may provide an example: see section 6.1.3 of Brame 1970. His account is that the affirmative imperative is formed by truncating the subject prefix ta- from the 2nd person jussive, and ...
user6726's user avatar
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7 votes

Name for a verb form meaning "feign or pretend to do sth"

As I wrote in a comment, this is one of the functions of the Biblical Hebrew Dt (hitpael) stem, but the two reference grammars I had a look at do not agree on terminology: Waltke and O'Connor (An ...
Keelan's user avatar
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7 votes

Why do verbs use 1st singular present active indicative instead of infinitive as the "canonical" or "representative" form in Latin?

Historical accident. Roman (and Ancient Greek) grammarians seem to have thought of verb paradigms somewhat like noun paradigms: the forms of puella "girl" are puella, puellae, etc, and the ...
Draconis's user avatar
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7 votes

What is the proper definition of a verb?

Semantically, there are two main functions in language: reference and predication. Some morphological items or words primarily refer to entities in the perceived world, while other items relate the ...
Davius's user avatar
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6 votes

What is the past tense of 'yeet'?

I don't understand what you mean by saying "might mean the word was originally in class 5 but switched classes". You have said that yeet is "recently coined". It doesn't seem to have an Old English ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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6 votes
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Why some verbs have -tion while others don't, when being nounified

Would be good to know if this is just because of the fact that English is messy, or there is some other reason. Yes and yes. Yes, because English is messy. The -tion examples are of course all ...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
6 votes

What is the reason for having irregular verbs?

Just as in biological evolution you end up with vestigial limbs, or organs that no longer serve any purpose, or body plans that seem wildly impractical (e.g. the recurrent laryngeal nerve, connecting ...
Tristan's user avatar
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6 votes

How did verb conjugation by person, number and gender appear? Why do we still use it?

More theory than history for you, but one take on it: Language evolution is an eternal tug-of-war between ease of articulation and information density. We want to say things quickly and learn how to ...
Luke Sawczak's user avatar
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6 votes

Using 'is' after non-denoting phrases

First, as Draconis's answer implies, the issue is not confined to predicates with is: you could ask the same question about sentences like A computer can't understand English. The assumption in your ...
TKR's user avatar
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